Episode #126: A Tale of Two CXM Experiences

Great CXM relies on technology (thank you, Sprinklr), people, and processes. And too often, stellar technology and people get tripped up by inane, pointless, outdated processes that frustrate your customers and your employees. Today we take a trip down the rabbit hole, where nothing is what it is, because everything is what it isn’t. It’s a story about absurd rules, misguided regional managers, CX barriers… and the store employee who defied the odds.

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Hey, it’s the CXM Experience and I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. Chief Experience Officer. People often ask me what Chief Experience Officer means, like, what is that job? And it’s an excellent question. And if you know, let me know, I’m just kidding. it’s an excellent question. And actually, I’ll do a really quick thing on what CXO means or what I think it means, because it’s certainly a newer role. And you’re starting to see this appear in companies. But the way I would describe the outcome of a CXO is that companies often deliver poor experiences for their customers. And I’ll have an example of one today. And the reason for that is the different silos and departments in the company are not working together, or different departments, Product and Marketing, for example, may not be working together. And that results in a disconnected experience for the customer. So, a good CXO would work to cross those silos and create experiences that feel connected, so the customer feels like they’re known. And if you hear some rattling noises in the room, by the way, that is my dog, Hester, Hester Prynne, named after the misunderstood protagonist from Scarlet Letter, and Hester’s a very, very good dog. Right Hester, you’re going to be a very good dog. Right? Okay. We’ll see  what happens. She seems just a little restless today. Today’s a weird day for her. I don’t know what’s going on. But we’ll see. If she starts to whine at the door, I may have to let her out of the room. But generally, she’s better in the room, maybe even whining a tiny bit than out of the room where she sees all the UPS and FedEx deliveries and you know, loses her complete mind every time someone comes to the door. So, there’s a lining, let’s see what happens here. Stay on your toes, everybody. Okay?

So, CXO, silo crosser, it’s kind of the way I’d put it. So, I had a really interesting, reasonably satisfactory in the end, but potentially really not very good customer experience. And it was so profound that I wanted to share it with everybody. But first, I wanted to share a little story about how – I’ve used this a few times now in speeches – about how I think marketers are behaving in the world we live in today. And I don’t know why it hit me. But it hit me in some conversation. I may have been interviewing somebody, I’m not sure where it came from. But there are two examples that are great examples. So first, let me provide the analogy examples. And then I’ll sort of link them to marketing and experience and just the way companies work with their customers all the time. So, there’s a great SNL skit, a classic SNL skit from the 90s with Tom Hanks, a very young Tom Hanks if you look this up on YouTube, and the skit was called Mr. Short-term Memory. And in this particular skit, Tom Hanks has no short-term memory. And so, he’ll show up in people’s houses and then keep forgetting that he’s at their house. And so, the joke is that he’s constantly rediscovering the situation that he’s in. And it’s, you know, hard to make a lot of forward progress.

My favorite episode was – which is not available online, I can’t find it – is one with Tony Randall, classic Tony Randall. And Tony Randall and Tom Hanks are on a game show. And it’s Mr. Short-term Memory and Tony Randall. And Tom Hanks keeps looking over at Tony Randall. And every time he sees him, he goes, “Oh, wow, Tony Randall” over and over and over again. It’s unbelievably funny. I don’t know why. But this constant rediscovery that Tony Randall is standing right beside him is, I thought, quite hilarious. And I guess everyone else thought so too, I hope. And so that’s the first one. So, think about Mr. Short-term Memory. Look it up on YouTube right now if you’ve got a chance.

The second thing I want to talk about is a movie from a few years ago, about a decade ago, called Fifty First Dates. And it had Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in it. Drew Barrymore plays a person who’s lost her short-term memory in an accident. And Adam Sandler is in love with her. And she can’t remember anything within a day. And so, the movie’s charming and heartbreaking in some ways, but they start this process of: he’s dating her. And every date that he goes on, she doesn’t remember him. Because it was from yesterday. So, they have fifty first dates. And it’s very interesting the way that they build to a conclusion and build to help her cope with this. I think it’s a brilliantly written movie which is under appreciated because it had Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in it, who are wonderful in it, they’re a wonderful in it. But at the time, both were not being taken very seriously and the movie, I think, suffered as a result. But if you have a chance to watch Fifty First dates – amazing movie.

There’s also Groundhog Day. Most people have seen this movie – Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

There’s almost a Fifty First Dates quality to it, where Bill Murray is trying to romance Andie MacDowell and every day, of course, she’s never met him before. So, he’s constantly trying to figure her out, and he only has 24 hours to do it. So, you’ll know how that ends, I think.

So why do I think those are good marketing analogies? The reason I think they’re good marketing analogies is that with many, many, many businesses, every time I talk to them, it’s like the first time they’ve ever met me. And what’s, I think, increasingly weirding people out, is that I know they’ve got my info, my name, what I’ve purchased before, they should be following me on Social, I may have connected to their accounts, there’s an awful lot of connection and communication that’s gone on. But every single time I try to do an interaction or call Customer Care, or reach out to the company in some way it’s, “Hey, Tony Randall”, every single time, and it is disconcerting, because you’re like, what are you doing with all that information you have on me? Why can’t you come back to me in an intelligent way? And why is it always “Hey, Tony Randall”, every single time. It’s bananas. And I’ve got to say, we’ve got to stop this, you know, because it’s getting to a point where it’s moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, because there’s no excuse. I know the reasons, but there’s no excuse for not being able to talk to a customer like you know them. Okay, so, end of rant.

Let me tell you about my story at a store called RoomsToGo. RoomsToGo is a very, very interesting furniture store. The original concept was that they would sell entire rooms. So, you’d walk in and just say, “I’ll take that room”, and you had a room to go. It’s a great idea, but not exactly the way their business has turned out. They’ve turned mostly into, you know, I want that piece of furniture, because everyone’s got very specific ideas on their rooms. And it’s really a very limited number of people who are in a situation where they care so little about the space they live in, they’ll just take something off the floor. However, you can still do that. And they do offer sort of all the pieces that belong in a room. Great company, very entrepreneurial firm, great customer service.

There’s a RoomsToGoOutdoor, and I decided to finish the backyard where we are here in Florida because we needed a table to sit at and we needed some stuff to sit on and chairs and needed a fire pit. No, we didn’t need a fire pit, but we got a fire pit. I’ve always wanted a fire pit; I have a fire pit now. I’m roasting marshmallows on it. It’s great. It’s all awesome. I needed an umbrella, I actually needed an umbrella., so I just needed a bunch of things. So, I went into RoomsToGo and was treated very, very , like amazingly, by the manager. I’m not going to use her name and stuff because there’s a couple things in here that might get them in trouble. But you can probably figure that out. There are not that many RoomsToGoOutdoor stores. But the manager was incredible. She was just the best salesperson I’ve ever had. I didn’t know she was the manager. So that sort of made sense afterwards, took care of me, got what I needed, set up a date, set me up with the right sort of furniture insurance and got the right things to clean the furniture and remembered to, you know, upsell me on a cover because I actually really wanted one, it was all good. And so, this is kind of proceeding and pieces are arriving somewhat in a piece-by-piece sort of basis because some are in different places, some are in stock, some are back-ordered, etc. The last piece to arrive, or the most recent piece to arrive is probably a better way to put it, is an umbrella.

Three people came to deliver the umbrella, and the umbrella has got a stand, and there’s an umbrella. It’s not super complicated. The stand requires some limited assembly, there’s a tube that goes into a base, and then the umbrella goes into the tube. So, for some reason The Three Stooges delivery service was used, and they bring it in the back. So, the base weighs 120 pounds, and it’s germane to the story. And this 120-pound base gets sort of thrown on the grass, and then they pound the post in incorrectly. Finally, I said, “You’re not doing it correctly”. So, we rotated it and they got it in properly. And then they slapped the umbrella in and I said, “That can’t be right”. They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “It’s just loose, it’s banging back and forth”. There was almost an inch of space. And not only that the little turnbuckles that would tighten the umbrella to hold it in place so it wouldn’t blow in the wind, wouldn’t reach it. The umbrella was, like, on the edge. And so, they weren’t long enough. And he said, “Well, that’s the way it is”, I said, “That’s not the way it is”. I’m not stupid. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. “That’s the way it is. That’s the way it came”, so I again said, “No, that can’t be it. Sorry”. And so, he took a picture, he said, “I’ll post this as a manufacturing defect. And off they went, never heard from them again, steaming mad.

So, I got in the car next day, or maybe a couple of days later. And I went to RoomsToGo, which is not super close so it was a bit of a trip, went to RoomsToGoOutdoor, walked in, manager’s there, said “Hello”. She said, “Hi”. And that was the first positive thing. It wasn’t a Fifty First Date. I walked in and she recognized me and she said, “Hello”, which already made me feel a lot better. So, I walked over to her and I said, “I had the worst delivery experience”. And she said, “I’m really sorry to hear that. What happened?” I explained it. And I said the thing is just loose in the base. It doesn’t make any sense. And when I was in the store, I don’t remember lit looking like that. She said, “Well, is there the black plastic sleeve on top?” I said, “Black plastic sleeve?“ She goes, “Yeah”. And I said, “No”. She said, “Ahh, they always leave that in the box”. Oh. So, we walk over to show me one on the floor. And sure enough, there’s a little, very simple, sort of two pieces of plastic that fit into each other and then go into the top. The umbrella goes through that. And then you secure it and hold it in the middle. Of course. And it’s so easy, because it’s just loose. It didn’t have to be installed, it’s not this big giant part. I said, “Can I please take this piece that’s in the stand right here?” And this is when it starts to get a little weird. And this is where there’s a good lesson on CX. And she’s like, “No, because then I won’t have one in the stand on the floor. I’ll have to order another one from head office and have them deliver a new one to you”. I said, “Really, this is like a two-cent piece of plastic. I can’t just take this. And you can just take a picture, explain to people it’s supposed to be there and just stick it on my umbrella and be super happy. You can’t do that?” And she goes, “No, I can’t do that, Head Office wouldn’t let me”.

I have run into this over and over again. And when they talk about CX, there’s obviously technology platforms that are important to make it happen. That’s what Sprinklr is great at. But you also need people, people who want to care enough to make customer experiences great. And you need the right processes. And where I see it break down over and over again, is that head office has engineered a process that doesn’t empower the people on the floor to make a decision. It happens at the airlines. I once missed the cut off for luggage to a flight by 30 seconds. 30 seconds and the airport was empty. There was no scenario where I would not make the flight. And that gate agent, try as she might, could not get my suitcase onto the plane. I missed my entire flight, like a whole day. Another time where I missed the 30-minute cut off for an airline by a minute in an empty airport in Memphis. And even though the plane was half empty, and I was willing to buy a first-class ticket with cash, they literally couldn’t sell me the ticket because there’s a 30-minute cut off, arbitrary 30 minute cut off. And they were as frustrated as I was.

And I see this over and over again. If you’re listening to me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. People whose hands are tied by bad process. So, we went back to the desk and I’m begging because now I’ve got the part in my hand. I can see victory. I can see victory. She said, “Okay, this is what we can do”. As she goes into the computer and says, “Hey, we’ve got them in stock in the store” which is a bit unusual. They don’t carry a ton of stock. We have two in stock in the store. I said, “Great. I’ll take one of those plastics. She says, “No, you can’t do that. See, I have to do an exchange”.

I said, “All right. So, what does that mean?” She says we have to bring your other stand in. And then I’ll give you the new stand and you can take that back. like whoa, wait a second. “So,  if I understand you correctly, I have to deadlift a 120-pound stand somehow into the back of my car. drive it here. somehow get it off the car and into the store”. She says, “we’ll help you with that”. “Okay, okay, just stay with me for a second. Then you’re going to put another 120-pound, identical stand that’s just got this little piece of plastic in it. And then I have to drive that back home, dead lift it out of my car and get it all the way into the backyard again That’s the system?”. And she goes, “That’s the system. Because if I don’t do it that way, I’ll get in trouble with my regional manager”. And I said, “That’s bananas”. Like, that’s bananas. When the part’s right here.

Okay, this is where it gets really good. And I think they probably broke some rules. But I was very pleasant. I spent a lot of money and I was a good customer. And I was, you know, I was dressed which is not always the truth in Florida. And they went to the back. And then they came back. And they said, “We had an epiphany”. Never heard anyone say that in a store before. They said, “We had an epiphany”. I said, “So what’s the Epiphany?” “The epiphany is that if you come back with your stand, and leave it in the back, and we give you this stand from the back, and you take it back home, at the end of the day, we’re going to have a stand in the back that doesn’t have the plastic piece in it anymore. And I said, “Yeah”. They said, “Well, why don’t we just give you the plastic piece from the stand in the back, not the one from the floor, we need to have the one in the one on the floor”. I get that. “We’ll give you the one for the one in the back. And then we’ll just process it like it was an exchange”. And I’m like, “Wow, that’s amazing customer service”.

Now meanwhile, in my brain, I’m thinking, I’m willing to bet there’s some rule at Head Office that I actually had to bring the thing back and they had to give me a new one. Like, I’m sure there’s some rule they’re breaking here that they may not even realize they’re breaking right now. So, I grabbed the piece of plastic, I said, “I’m extremely happy right now. Thank you for great customer service”. And I hightailed it out of there as fast as I could, and got home, put it in the stand, put the umbrella back in, everything’s working perfectly. And I am very happy.

But it was an interesting example of how difficult it was to do something that was so obviously correct for the customer, and how many steps it took to do it. Look at your processes, look at your empowerment, how many times are you making customers do silly things, because that’s the rules. And especially when they’re silly things according to your own employees who know better and just want to do the right thing. Make sure you empower people at that employee facing level so they can do the right thing and create happy employees. I’m totally going back to RoomsToGoOutdoor, I’m totally going to be seeing that manager again. And I’m going to buy more stuff from them. Because they did a great job for me. I just hope that they didn’t get in trouble too much from their regional manager for making a customer happy. And for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and I’ll see you  … next time.